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The BBC's Tom Symonds
"Buses and pedestrianisation schemes will also get more money"
 real 56k

Thursday, 14 December, 2000, 17:26 GMT
Transport bonanza unveiled
Traffic jam
Road schemes and bus priority routes get funding
A 1.3bn cash injection for local transport schemes has been announced by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

Nearly 40 new local road schemes, including 14 new bypasses, have been approved.

These road improvements are part of a five-year 8.4bn government investment in local transport.

The 1.3bn announced is double that spent last year and covers local transport plans for 2001-02, including minor roads for which local authorities are responsible.

Click here to view a regional breakdown of the transport schemes.

Around 8.4bn has been earmarked for local transport plans including covered light railway systems, road systems, buses and the rail industry, out of the 180bn investment in transport over 10 years.


Every region is a winner in today's 8.4bn investment boost

John Prescott

But some local councils will be unhappy, as about half the road schemes for which they sought funding have been rejected.

Mr Prescott said: "Every region is a winner in today's 8.4bn investment boost.

"This money will make a real difference to everyone, however they travel and wherever they live.

"Local problems need local solutions. And the local authorities are best placed to assess the transport needs of their areas."

He insisted that there was a proper balance between spending on roads and on public transport, and that approved road schemes had met tough criteria to assess their environmental impact.

"This excellent package for local transport reverses years of under-investment," he said.


Mr Prescott is pretending to be a generous Santa Claus, but in reality he is Scrooge

Bernard Jenkin
But shadow transport minister Bernard Jenkin said: "This package is a real let-down, not the Christmas bonanza Mr Prescott pretends.

"This just gets us back to the higher spending levels we had under the previous Conservative government."

Mr Jenkin said that Labour had spent only 2.6bn on local transport since the last general election, while the last government had spent more than 4bn over a comparable period.

"Today's announcement of 1.3bn is virtually the same as the Conservatives spent in 1993 and 1994," he said.

"This compares to 36bn that the government took in taxes from the motorist last year.

Newbury bypass
Environmental groups feared a 'road-builders' bonanza'

"Mr Prescott is pretending to be a generous Santa Claus, but in reality he is Scrooge."

The measures include faster, more reliable bus routes; up to 2,700 schemes to ease traffic congestion; up to 8,200 local road safety measures including 20mph zones outside schools, traffic calming measures, and safer routes to schools; 120 new and improved park-and-ride schemes and more than 2,500 miles of new cycle routes.

The financial settlement was split between road schemes and other transport measures such as improved public transport, bus priority routes, safe routes to school, and traffic calming.

But Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Don Foster said the plans would not lead to a reduction in road traffic.


John Prescott has shot himself in the foot

Don Foster

"John Prescott has shot himself in the foot. We are determined to hold him to his promise to reduce the number of journeys by car," he said.

He added that traffic calming and bus priority measures "only chip away at the problem".

"Public transport remains underfunded. We need serious investment if we are to develop a public transport system which is safe, reliable and affordable."

Lynn Sloman, assistant director of Transport 2000, said: "This local transport package shows that road building is back on the agenda regardless of its environmental impact."

She said many of the schemes would damage environmentally sensitive sites and result in more traffic.

"Politicians are in danger of forgetting the lesson of the 1990s, when large-scale road development played very badly with ordinary people," she added.

"Communities and environmental groups will now take on the government over every inch of tarmac."

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See also:

20 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Mixed response to transport plans
20 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Huge cash boost for road and rail
20 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Transport 2010 at a glance
14 Dec 00 | UK
Transport schemes win funds
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